Readers' Letters: Gender Recognition Bill ignores women’s rights

The UK is a liberal country when it comes to sexual orientation. Equal marriage is generally accepted and cross-dressing is seen as a matter of personal choice. Such measures have entered our culture and should make life easier for trans people.

However, the Gender Recognition Bill goes further than that and raises a lot of questions about ex-males accessing women's spaces. The world of women’s sport, for example, is divided on the issue – some sports have accepted ex-males on an equal basis with women, whereas others have ruled that ex-males have a biological advantage acquired as they grew up and so those sports do not accept ex-males as women. Likewise, there are problems of prisoners in male prisons being able to demand transfer to women's prisons and ex-males accessing women's refuges.

Nor is it clear why people should be allowed to rewrite their birth certificate. A birth certificate states what a person's sex was at birth. It does not prevent anyone from living as the opposite sex later in life. However, giving people the right to alter their birth certificate will make the problems outlined above, concerning access to women's sport, prisons and refuges, much more difficult to resolve because it will seem to confer a right of access. For that reason many people are worried that the Scottish Government should allow anyone to rewrite their birth certificate.

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These are just some of the issues which cause widespread concern about the Gender Recognition Reform Bill. Women's rights campaigners have highlighted these issues (among others) but it is not clear how the problems have been resolved so that the Bill can proceed. Can someone please explain how the Bill deals with these difficulties? No Bill at all would be better than a Bill which ignores women’s rights.

A protest was held by campaign group For Women Scotland at the Scottish Parliament against plans to introduce gender self-identification last month (Picture: Lisa Ferguson)
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Les Reid, Edinburgh

Too much debt

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Who needs Jeremy Hunt, Joyce McMillan has the answer (Perspective, 18 November). It's the Green Deal and tons more debt to be spent by national and local government. Well whoop-de-do, don’t let's have a radical change in how government operates, let's change the name and continue as usual.

Of course we need a good look at how governments spend our cash and the “benefit” achieved. However, whatever our views on how we tackled the Covid epidemic, the elected government took a view and proceeded. We are now tackling a massive debt due to that action and the bottom line is that has to be repaid by us, the country.

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We are told that without that action millions would have died and the jobless numbers would have soared. So what is all the noise about now? It had to be done, now we pay.

In a similar vein, food and energy costs are rising and the cause can be attributed to Emperor Putin and his dream of a Greater Russia. In addition we are now having to deal with consequences of globalisation, and government lacking understanding of the consequences of letting the market dictate.

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Now we have an opportunity to recalibrate government. However, more debt cannot be the answer. We need to reduce our debt and then have a serious discussion on how we want our government to proceed.

Tony Lewis, Coylton, Ayrshire

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Not so bad?

At the start of her response to Jeremy Hunt's autumn statement shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves gave the stern warning that that his measures mean working people face “cancelled holidays, sleepless nights and hopes for the future dashed”.

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That sounds miles better than her, and most politicians' previous stern warnings that people are having to decide between feeding their families and turning the heating on. Does she secretly agree with his budget?

Allan Sutherland, Stonehaven

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Take tough line

I read with interest your editorial in the Scotsman of 18 November and, on reaching the last line – “Power too timid to speak truth to the people is no way to run a country “ when describing the UK Government – immediately thought of our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP/Green Party government. They have also been guilty of misleading the Scottish public on various issues yet seem to be let off lightly by the press and media here in Scotland compared to their counterparts south of the Border.It begs the question: are all governments/political parties tarred with the same brush?

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Bill Hope, Longniddry, East Lothian

Cheery

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Douglas Cowe asks for certainty from the SNP (Letters, 18 November). The only certainty in life is death. I doubt we are experiencing the certainty that the Conservative Party wanted 12 years ago. Circumstances, a pandemic, a sharp rise in oil prices and consistently bad decision making for short-term gain have landed the UK in the midden. Is that certainty?

Keith WF Proborszcz-Maloney, Dumfries

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Fractions fail

I took great interest in Conor Matchett's piece in Thursday's Scotsman ("Support of two thirds of MPs should be required for indyref2”) , reporting the details of the Institute for Government's latest paper reviewing the UK constitution.

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Firstly, the assertion by its author, former permanent secretary Philip Rycroft, that devolution is an “unsatisfactory halfway house” must be challenged. Regardless of Mr Rycroft's opinion, the devolution settlement is what people in Scotland voted for in 1997. Overwhelmingly. In addition, the 2014 referendum was won with promises of significant further devolution and constitutional permanence.

Secondly, regarding two-thirds majorities for constitutional change, this will never be allowed to come to be, because the English constitutional concept that "Parliament is sovereign" is too useful a tool for passing contentious legislation for any UK government to give away willingly.

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Can you imagine Boris Johnson's government accepting that the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (repealed earlier this year by 316 votes to 162) had to stay on the statute books because a two-thirds majority was not achieved?

In summary, the proposed two-thirds majority for constitutional change could only work for the most “Cakeist” of prime ministers. It would be described as essential and a fundamental requirement for legislation the executive wished to block, and bypassed or ignored for legislation that the executive wished to pass.

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That is no way to govern a country.

David Patrick, Edinburgh

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Poor relations

While the UK Government blames the Ukraine war and Covid for the record drop on living standards, the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) claims that Brexit is also a factor. This helps explain why the UK has the slowest growth amongst the G7 leading economies, precipitating a 7 per cent fall in disposable income in real terms over the next two years.

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The fiscal watchdog estimates that Brexit has reduced trading intensity by 15 per cent while the other G7 countries saw a significant trade recovery from 2020. It also estimates an extra payment of nearly £20 billion in divorce payments to the EU is outstanding. Furthermore, the UK’s loss of exports to the EU has not been recouped by exports to other countries, with these down 18 per cent on 2019 levels. This contributes to long-term GDP expected to reduce by 4 per cent as a result of Brexit, making our economy smaller and the country poorer.

The most vulnerable are protected by inflation-matching increases in benefits and pensions. Even these groups will be worse off, however, as they spend much more of their income proportionately on food, which has seen price increases of 16 per cent over the last year, far outstripping the 10 per cent uplift.

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The Scottish Government needs to redistribute income through tax, with those earning over £100,000 paying the top rate of tax, and increase this to 50 per cent. It’s obscene anyone should be earning this level of income when millions are struggling to pay their basic bills.

As the UK parties will not reapply to join the EU to grow the economy they must consider joining the European Free Trade Area or the country will continue to be poorer.

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This has many of the benefits of an economic union with the EU without being tied to its agricultural and fisheries policy.

Neil Anderson, Edinburgh

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Cool to be kind

As a retired teacher I would like to endorse wholeheartedly the sentiments in Cameron Wylie's article (“Kindness should have a place in the school curriculum”, Perspective, 17 November). It is a sad fact of life that in our world qualities such as kindness, gentleness and compassion are frequently derided and considered to be indicative of weakness.

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This is often the case in the thinking of those bent upon acquiring as much money as possible or climbing as far up the greasy pole as possible. How others are treated in this quest is almost completely irrelevant. One only has to look at some of today's politicians, both here and across the pond, for evidence of this.

Sadly, these are the people who often hold the reins of power, not just in politics, but in places of work and other areas of life as well.

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There is little chance of changing their mindset, but if we can educate the young to understand that the acquisition of wealth and power need not be achieved in this way and that there are other more meaningful ways of measuring success, then our future world can surely be a happier place, more at peace with itself. As the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said 'What wisdom can you find greater than kindness?'

David Hamill, East Linton, East Lothian

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